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CSSN is proud to be assisting the work of 74 teams of researchers at 83 universities in 25 countries. 2021 – 2024 grantees are listed below.

2024 Funded Projects

Corporate obstruction of environmental legislation: A global analysis

Benjamin Leffel, University of Nevada, Las Vegas

This project will assess on a global-scale corporate obstruction of climate legislation in order to answer the following questions: What techniques are used by multinational firms to oppose climate action? What types of legislation is targeted for opposition versus support? How do global patterns articulate obstruction-related problems observed in corporate America? Using CDP data on lobbying activities by over 2,000 corporations in 70 countries between 2010 and 2019, this project observes lobbying activity on climate legislation ranging from direct opposition to support for stronger policy. A mixed-methods approach will show the industries most responsible for obstruction, the motivations and techniques for both policy opposition and support, and the types of legislation targeted. The study will advance existing work by testing whether obstruction patterns observed in the United States also extend to the international scale, and will produce recommendations for policymakers globally.

Climate Obstructionism in Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan: Elite Resistance and the Problem of Distribution within Society

Morena Skalamera, Leiden University

Scant attention has been placed on calls for a delayed ‘just’ energy transition by different population groups within Central Asia. This research focuses on Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, the two fossil fuel rich countries of Central Asia who have also made pledges to carbon neutrality by 2060 and 2050, respectively. The project asks: What are the effects of global climate policies both on political elites and within different societal groups in Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan and how do such effects influence societal support for global climate action?

Climate Change Policy Networks in Indonesia: Competing Interests among Palm Oil, Coal, and Sustainable Energy

Paul K. Gellert, University of Tennessee

Insular Southeast Asia faces a high level of vulnerability to climate change, including risks of permanent inundation, displacement of millions of people, and devastating impacts on property and infrastructure. Building on research in the global North on climate change policy networks, countermovements, and more moderate “climate capitalism,” this research focuses on the global South. This project seeks to understand the climate policy planning network in Southeast Asia by examining the population of relevant transnational organizations in the region in combination with a judgment sample of important civil society organizations in Indonesia and analysis of the role of key sectors, palm oil and coal. Social network analysis will be used to examine the structure of the network and will be enriched by qualitative interviews across different types of civil society organizations, business, and government actors to shed light on the climate policy planning network and the contours of climate capitalism.

Climate Change Local News and Media Climate Obstruction: A Fine-Grained Study of Five Global South Countries

Federica Genovese, University of Oxford

What role does local news play in shaping citizens’ climate beliefs in the Global South, and what determines the politicization of local news around climate change in developing countries’ media contexts? We will answer this question by compiling the first-ever dataset of fine-grained news reporting and consumption on climate change in five mid-income developing countries: Brazil, Indonesia, Mexico, South Africa and Vietnam. Through this novel dataset, we will explore the factors that contribute to different forms of climate news, if and how climate policy obstructionists succeed at influencing reporting in these contexts, and what challenges local journalists may face in accurately and timely covering climate issues. We will also assess whether local climate reporting is an effective means to mobilize citizens around climate change mitigation and adaptation policies. The project will contribute to a public database featuring systematic yet granular information on local climate politics throughout the developing world.

Unveiling shadows: the impact of the fossil fuel industry on climate policy and domestic legislation in Australia

Robyn Gulliver, University of Queensland

This project aims to investigate the influence of Australia’s oil, gas, and petrochemical sectors on anti-protest laws and residential gas bans. It will combine a comprehensive lobbying database covering states/territories and federal lobbying activities since 2008 with data from corporate submissions, social media, annual reports, and other archival sources to explore the positions and activities of the fossil fuel industry before, during, and after the introduction of protest criminalization and domestic gas supply legislation. In conjunction with project partners The Commons Social Change Library and Australian Democracy Network, the project’s deliverables will encompass a publicly accessible lobbying database and detailed inventory of lobbying strategies, a comprehensive report, two case studies, and at least one scholarly article. This project seeks not only to map the intricate web of influence wielded by the fossil fuel lobby but also to equip policymakers, activists, and the broader public with actionable insights to challenge and mitigate the sector impact on Australian law and policy.

Backlash to energy transition at three Baltic states (BALTIC)

Mahir Yazar, University of Bergen

Europe will need to fundamentally transform its energy production systems to build a prosperous climate neutral and sustainable economy and society and to become the first climate neutral continent. The three Baltic States—Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania—are the last EU member states with electricity networks still synchronized with Russia and Belarus. While desynchronizing from the Soviet-era system is crucial to achieve European Green Deal, the green transition has political implications that could fuel backlashes by multiple actors and institutions at the national levels. By employing a novel methodological approach, using topic modeling and network analyses on a range of related documents (e.g., newspapers, reports, policy documents, parlimentary minutes), the BALTIC project will compare the actors, their networks, and obstruction tactics against green transitions in the three countries.

Dealing in decarbonisation? A political economy analysis of the Just Energy Transition Partnerships

Thomas Klug, MCC Berlin; Victoria Plutshack

Just Energy Transition Partnerships (JETPs) represent landmark climate finance commitments from Global North countries and financial institutions, aiming to accelerate low carbon energy transitions in the Global South. Critics argue the fossil fuel phase out measures of the JETPs have blind spots, undermining their climate ambitions and potentially favouring donor governments’ economic interests. In June 2023, an International Partners Group comprising France, Germany, the E.U., the U.K. and Canada pledged 2.5 billion euros to help finance Senegal’s renewable energy transition. However, media reports suggest the donor governments may benefit from Senegalese natural gas exports amid the Ukraine conflict, prompting calls for JETP funding to exclusively support renewable energy. This project employs an interview-based, political economy analysis of stakeholders engaged in Senegal’s JETP (as part of a wider cross-country study) to uncover key gaps or loopholes in the JETP agreements that undermine and obstruct climate action in the Global South.

National Climate Policy Processes in Africa: Analysing Climate Policy Integration in East African Countries

Mathias Nigatu Bimir, Kotebe University of Education

This study investigates the integration of climate policy in three East African nations: Rwanda, Kenya, and Ethiopia. Cognizant that these countries have introduced national climate policies, the study intends to delineate climate policy integration by analyzing national policy processes and governance structures. The study is pertinent given that changing policy systems into integration is highly uncertain as challenges exist in reforming silo institutional cultures. Methodologically, the study is pursued as a qualitative multiple-case study analysis. Empirical data collection involves content analysis and semi-structured interviews with purposefully selected key informants in each case study country. The empirical analysis and its outcomes are expected to contribute to the literature on climate policy processes and policy learning from the Global South.

Kochs Industries and Climate Change: What Koch Knew, When, and How it Reacted

Connor Gibson, Grassrootbeer Investigations

The primary objective of this research is to produce a report that can be used to advance the public’s understanding of how Koch Industries and its affiliates financed and participated in efforts to obstruct climate change solutions. The research would examine consistency, or lack thereof, between Koch executives’ understanding of climate change science and how they reacted as businesspeople and political influencers. A timeline of key events would be created using open source research techniques. A combination of quantitative financial data, qualitative details, and deductive reasoning would be used to reach conclusions that are currently not a matter of public record.

Organized Misinformation about Renewable Energy and Biodiversity Conservation in the U.S. Agriculture Sector

Ted Hsuan Yun Chen, George Mason University; Dianna Belman, George Mason University

Energy firms and their industrial associations have been shown to engage in organized climate misinformation, but there is little research on their activities in the agricultural sector despite the importance of farmers as important consumers of scientific research and renewable energy technologies. Our project aims to produce an integrated analysis of the source, target, and transmission of organized misinformation on renewable energy use in the U.S. agriculture sector in two steps. First, we analyze climate obstructionist misinformation produced by U.S. energy firms. Second, we survey Virginia farmers to measure their exposure to these messages, and test their responses to counter-obstructionist messages based on our misinformation analysis. Recognizing the power of mutually constraining behavioral preferences, we pay particular attention to how misinformation messaging exploits the negative externalities of renewable energy production on biodiversity and conservation to frame cherrypicked statistics about renewable energy infrastructure and to greenwash nonsustainable energy types.

Obstructive climate solutions? How political actors and fossil fuel industries shape mitigation research in Europe

Aaron Pereira, Universiteit Twente; Guus Dix, Universiteit Twente

Achieving climate goals requires rapid social and technological change while accounting for geographic differences and global injustices. The search for climate solutions has a political and economic dimension; recently, ‘societal impact’ of science has emerged as a key political and research objective, present in science policies worldwide. Two factors could lead to certain climate solutions being well-researched at others’ expense. First, impact-oriented research is often funded by governments that have themselves failed to act adequately. Second, research agendas have often been developed together with incumbent (fossil fuel) industries invested in the status quo, and pace and direction of the transition. Climate obstruction research primarily focuses on denialism, delaying and lobbying tactics for opposing climate policy; we extend this to the development of climate solutions. Studying European science policymaking, we compare solutions – e.g. hydrogen, CCS – that could prolong fossil fuel demand with solutions – e.g. behavioral change, degrowth – that might lower demand.

Obstructive Actors and Amicus Briefs in Climate Litigation

Kaia Turowski, London School of Economics

Amicus briefs, which increasingly appear in courts internationally, serve as significant mechanisms for judicial democratic input, and judges rely on them when writing opinions. However, there are rising concerns about anonymously funded amicus briefs in the U.S. that obscure connections between amici, litigants, and controversial funders– including those from the fossil fuel industry. This obscurity may occlude the possible lack of credibility behind the views presented in these briefs. There are also apprehensions that certain courts may be corrupted by climate denialist interests. Despite concerns regarding such “abuse” of amicus briefs, there is a notable absence of empirical analysis on the impact of fossil fuel amicus briefs on judicial policy. Such analysis is imperative in order to address the aforementioned concerns: do these briefs substantially influence judicial opinions, thus potentially obstructing climate litigation, or are they relatively ineffective at swaying judicial opinion? My dissertation sheds light on this question.

Behind the Green Curtain: Unveiling Industry’s EU Single Market Tactics to Obstruct Climate Policy

Moritz Neujeffski, Tübingen University; Olivier Hoedeman, Corporate Europe Observatory

The European Green Deal marks a significant EU commitment to climate protection, yet the reality reveals that the EU’s overall structure still heavily leans towards business interests at the expense of environmental safeguards. Central to this issue is the European Single Market, a neoliberal institution designed to encourage free trade through deregulation and reduced state interference. In practice, this has facilitated industries in undermining national climate and social policies. This investigation shines a light on three lesser-known single market enforcement mechanisms that enable such industry influence: the single market complaints mechanism, the notification procedure for technical regulations, and the service notification procedure. Despite their potential to be used as channels for climate and environmental policy obstruction, these mechanisms have received little attention, missing from both academic research and wider political discussions. With this project we aim to close that gap, seeking to foster a more informed debate on how the Single Market’s operations might be reformed to align with Europe’s ambitious climate goals and protect Europe’s social fabric.

New Ways of Climate Obstruction: Russian government and companies under Western santions

Anna Korppoo, Fridtjof Nansen Institute

As a fossil fuel export-based economy, Russia has traditionally been a climate obstructionist country. Before the Ukraine war, trade relations with the West incentivized both the Russian government and exporting companies to prepare for the global low-carbon trend. This project addresses the gap in knowledge related to Russia’s new ways of climate obstruction, which have emerged as changing geopolitics and Western sanctions reduced such incentives since February 2022. We examine 1) changing climate obstruction strategies and tactics by Russian exporting companies and government, 2) Russia’s attempts to spread its new approach to climate obstruction to Asia and other Former Soviet Republics as a result of trade and political cooperation ties, and 3) the explanatory power of authoritarian environmentalism theory about the evolving Russian polity and its influence on the Former Soviet Republics. The project will be conducted over 17 months (09/2024-02/2026); we apply seed funding of $25,000.

The Russian Influence in the Czech Climate Obstructions

Vojtech Pecka, Masaryk University

This proposal examines the influence of Russian information campaigns on climate change denial in the Czech Republic, a nation with high emissions and a significant dependence on Russian fossil fuels. Despite a decrease in fossil reliance post-Ukraine invasion, significant dependency continues. While several factors have been suggested for the Czech Republic’s climate obstructionism (focusing on local fossil oligarchies, or libertarian/neoliberal think tanks and ideologies), the influence of Russian information campaigns has been notably overlooked. The study will focus on pro-Russian hybrid media outlets, creating their organizational profiles, and the broader history of establishing the pro-Russian media ecosystem. Subsequently, the study will undertake a systematic analysis of their climate change coverage, categorizing climate narratives to assess the prevalence and characteristics of climate denial discourse. Their climate messaging will be supplemented with the literature on the geopolitical situation, to illuminate the broader geopolitical context of decarbonization efforts.

Clothed in Green: Investigating How the Garment Industry Impedes Climate Action in Bangladesh

Nikhil Deb, California Polytechnic State University (Cal Poly)

Bangladesh, the world’s second-largest garment exporter, holds a significant position in the global textile industry. This study investigates how the garment sector in Bangladesh, a country highly vulnerable to climate impacts, hinders meaningful climate actions. Despite being a vital economic driver, generating over 80% of foreign currency earnings and attracting substantial foreign investment, the sector employs greenwashing tactics akin to global fossil fuel companies, masking substantive actions under the guise of a “just transition.” By examining the collaboration between the garment industry and various entities promoting neoliberal governance, this research uncovers how greenwashing obscures genuine efforts. Through archival and interview data from diverse stakeholders like management firms, trade associations, advocacy groups, research institutions, and corporations, the study exposes climate obstruction in one of the world’s most climate-vulnerable regions. This research challenges the perception of Bangladesh’s garment industry as a sustainability leader, emphasizing the necessity for authentic climate measures.

Cleared for take-off? Aviation industry advocacy in Europe 2020 – 2024

William Dinan, University of Stirling

This project investigates aviation industry advocacy in recent European policymaking. The role of transport, and aviation in particular, represents an economically and culturally important activity that is currently difficult to abate and mitigate. This project explores how aviation industry policymakers and lobbyists, working in industry trade associations and selected members companies in Europe, navigate competing policy pressures around industry resilience and growth in the context of the EU’s wider climate commitments. The research examines the key policy and advocacy issues the industry has pursued recently, with a particular focus on lobbying to reopen airports and resume passenger air travel after Covid restrictions were imposed on travel in Europe in 2020. The research investigates recent and contemporary aviation industry advocacy for a return to ‘business as usual’ in the context of pandemic recovery and increasing policy concern in Europe to meet the EU’s climate commitments.

The Monkey Wrench Gang: Identifying Obstruction in the United Nations Climate Negotiations with Artificial Intelligence

Ian Gray, Columbia University; Florian Cafiero, Université Paris Sciences et Lettres

Social scientists have extensively documented how an interdependent network of think tanks, philanthropists, media outlets, and corporate lobbyists, have constrained public action on climate change over the past thirty years. Adding to these analyses, this project examines how country delegates to the UNFCCC have engaged in multilateral negotiations as a means for obstructing the transition away from fossil fuel consumption. Relying on a textual corpus of diplomatic interactions during actual negotiations, the research leverages recent advances in artificial intelligence to detect and classify moments of obstruction. This approach provides an unparalleled view of the processes, participants, and patterns of obstruction that have occurred across thirty years of talks. The use of the UN system itself as a site for undermining climate change has not gained the equivalent treatment as work on other types of climate obstruction, and this is something this project seeks to remedy.

E. Bruce Harrison and the Legacy of “Green” Public Relations

Melissa Aronczyk, Rutgers University

The overall objective of this research is to inquire into the motives and practices of public relations counselors engaged in historical and present-day obstruction of environmental protection and climate change policies and legislation. The research will focus on one of the most prominent, yet under-recognized, public relations officers in the history of “green” PR. This 21-month project will combine an in-depth historical and biographical account of key PR figures and the field of “green” PR with theoretical perspectives on elite political and communications networks and empirical research on the exercise of corporate political power in the United States and abroad.

Petro-pedagogy: What’s in America’s Classrooms?

Elaina Sanders-Hancock, The University of Connecticut; Anji Seth, The University of Connecticut; Carol Atkinson-Palombo, The University of Connecticut; Nathaniel Trumbull, The University of Connecticut

Tactics employed by fossil fuel companies to influence school-aged children, dubbed ‘petro-pedagogy’, serve as a gateway to a lifetime of maintaining the fossil fuel hegemony. The future workforce and voter base are targeted, but are all school districts exposed to these materials equally? How are the materials utilized, if at all?

We will start addressing these questions by connecting with teachers through interviews, listservs, data from previous studies, and surveys, and approaching the creators and publishers of these materials where we will amass data about where and to what extent petro-pedagogy is happening in the K-12 educational space across the US. We will examine the framing and communication strategies employed in petro-pedagogy to study patterns in how the materials are integrated into lesson plans. The work of this seed grant will serve as a basis for further studies into potential regional differences, which could help focus future climate communication efforts.

Obstructing Climate Action through Party Politics in South Korea

Jihyung Joo, University of Leeds

Climate crisis demands a swift and radical change into a low-carbon society. Despite, climate actions are delayed and there are much information missing to understand how the national actors and institutions are contributing to climate delay and obstruction through sustaining political powers. This research is deisgned to investigate the role of the government and the party politics in obstructing climate actions in South Korea by shedding light on the tight relationship between the conservative party, government bureaucrats and the energy and industry sectors. Through a comprehensive set of policy documents and semi-structured interviews to policy actors, the research discovers how the incumbent struture and their powers are hindering a transformation that is needed to address climate change. The policy network stresses non-transformative solutions like carbon markets and removal technology, and promotes nuclear power as green energy to resist change.

Mapping Conflicts of Interest Between Universities and Fossil Fuel Interests

Noel Healy, Salem State University; Geoffrey Supran, University of Miami

This project will investigate conflicts of interest between fossil fuel interests and universities globally. By examining diverse sectors, such as airlines, chemicals, cement, shipping, steel, utilities, automobiles, and more, this study will reveal previously overlooked corporate influences on climate action. This research will enhance understanding of how academic roles intersect with corporate interests, pinpointing areas where academic integrity may be compromised in research, policy, curriculum development, and climate actions. Revealing these affiliations will foster transparency, promote accountability in academic governance, and help policymakers to combat corporate influence and uphold the integrity of science-driven solutions to the climate crisis.

Beyond Forest Protection: The Effects of Creating Protected Areas on Local Politics

Guilherme Natan Fasolin, Vanderbilt University

Deforestation is a pressing issue of our time. Forests play a vital role in maintaining biodiversity and mitigating climate change. Nearly 20% of global greenhouse gas emissions are attributed to deforestation. In response, governments worldwide have created various mechanisms to combat deforestation, including the creation of Protected Areas (PAs). While PAs have been effective in curbing deforestation, their impacts on local politics remain understood. This project addresses this gap by examining the effects of PAs on local politics in Brazil, which hosts to a significant number of PAs. It investigates how the creation of PAs affects the pattern of direct resource transfers for municipalities within these areas historically, considering political alignment with the central government. Additionally, it explores PAs’ influence on the political entry of local politicians, specifically examining whether they attract more candidates associated with forest destruction. Overall, this research investigates how forest conservation efforts change political incentives in a way that amplifies the link between local politics and environmental degradation.

2023 Funded Projects

Climate Obstruction In Former Soviet Republics: Common Features?

Anna Korppoo, Fridtjof Nansen Institute

Former Soviet Republics (FSRs) beyond Russia and Ukraine have not featured much in international climate politics, and their domestic climate policy processes and societal approaches have hardly been studied. Still, there are signs of inconsistencies in their climate policies and there are obvious domestic interest groups, which may obstruct implementation of climate policy. This project aims at addressing this gap in social scientific knowledge by examining climate obstruction in 3-4 case FSRs; Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan and Belarus (subject to data availability). We examine 1) signs of climate obstruction in the case countries 2) actors, strategies and tactics involved 3) related discursive elements and 4) relationship between declared policy and implementation. As a result, we can make comparison between case countries and with Russia to examine whether shared features of climate obstruction in the FSRs can be identified, contributing to authoritarian environmentalism literature.

Polluters by Proxy: The Role of Norwegian Companies in Ecological Harms in Brazil and its Contradictions with Norway’s Claims to Preventing Climate Change

Yogi Hendlin and Fernando Palazzo, Erasmus University Rotterdam, Depts of Law and Philosophy

In 2022, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released its new report indicating that carbon emissions keep on increasing in all sectors, reaching the highest level in human history. Brazil has been the focus of special attention since it hosts the largest part of the Amazon rainforest, which contains the richest biodiversity on the planet. Brazil is frequently treated as if it were solely responsible for the harmful events that occur on its territory. Nevertheless, what remains obscure is the influence of foreign states and companies in driving climate changing activities in the country, most particularly companies with ties to the same countries that harshly condemn Brazil for ecological destruction. Norway is a telling example in this regard. This research investigates the ecological damages caused by Norwegian companies in Brazil and their contradictions with Norway’s claims for environmental protection in Brazil in the context of climate justice.

Subnational climate obstruction: A case study of Arizona, USA

Phoenix Eskridge-Aldama, under faculty advisor Dr. Diana Stuart, Northern Arizona University

This research explores how political barriers prevent sufficient subnational climate protection policies through a case study of Arizona. I draw from “anti-reflexivity” (McCright & Dunlap, 2010) and the “anthro-shift” (Fisher & Jorgenson, 2019) theories to address how anti-reflexive forces contribute to climate obstruction and how society may shift away from these patterns. Building from US Climate Countermovement and state climate policy literature, I propose two studies to evaluate how campaign financing, partisanship, interest group opposition, and relationships between utilities and the Arizona Corporation Commission (ACC) contribute to climate obstruction in Arizona. First, I will statistically analyze the effects of campaign donations from certain industries on politicians’ support for climate policy. Second, I will conduct interviews with key actors involved in Arizona climate policymaking to examine positions, tactics, and power dynamics surrounding climate policymaking and obstruction in the Arizona State Legislature.

Greenwashing the prime-time? A content analysis on green advertisements and climate related content on Germany’s public television

Rahel Roloff, Universität Hamburg

This work seeks to close gaps in our understanding of greenwashing and advertising initiatives by strategic players and how they relate to the editorial environment they are placed in. Employing both automated and qualitative content analysis in a mixed methods approach to text and visual material, this analysis will take a closer look at the climate-related content during prime-time on German public television and examine editorial content and advertisements aired during this period. It provides insights into the ways in which advertisers and cooperations use that air time to claim or exaggerate their environmental performance or commitment to sustainability. This study examines, whether we see an actual ‘greening’ of prime-time television content at the intersection of economy and ecology, or if this ‘sustainability-friendly’ editorial environment is rather (mis)-used for the promotion of green lifestyles through sustainable consumption.

Fossil Atlas: a global history of oil multinational’s organisation of climate policy obstruction through the Atlas Network

Jeremy Walker, University Of Technology Sydney

This research aims to present an account of the origins, aims and evolving strategies of the Atlas Network, and its role in advancing fossil fuel industry objectives from its 1981 founding (as the Atlas Economic Research Foundation) – notably at a time when major corporate donors such as ExxonMobil and Shell possessed detailed scientific projections of catastrophic global impacts by the early 21st century – into the present.

Transitioning toward climate Smart Agriculture solutions: Analysis of regulatory framework and synergies among stakeholders for the benefit of smallholders farmers in Cameroon

Tchemtchoua Eleazar and Napi Herve, University of Dschang

Agriculture is the mainstay of Cameroon’s economy, engaging about 70 percent of the working population. Cameroon ratified a number of international treaties relating to climate change and the country is currently implementing a series of short, medium and long-term actions along with various partners to develop a more resilient, productive and sustainable agriculture indeed.
1) Identify and analyse existing policies and instruments at the institutional level, in order to unseal existing gaps to be filled, that will in turn make climate smart agriculture practices accessible at the community level;
2) Assess the actions taken by local institutions and international organisations involved in the transition to CSA in Cameroon, in order to identify opportunities for synergy of interventions;
3) Understand the perception of Smallholder farmers on the climate smart agriculture in Cameroon.

The Livestock Industries Involved in Climate Policy Obstruction

Jennifer Jacquet and Viveca Morris, University of Miami

Opposition to climate action includes not only high-emitting firms, but also firms that sell that downstream to high-emitting firms. This work looks at the web of companies (e.g., animal feed companies) related to the livestock industry involved in climate policy obstruction in the United States, Canada, and Europe.

Just Industrial Transitions in the Global South: The Case of Auto Manufacturing

Benjamin Bradlow, Princeton University

Auto manufacturing in Brazil and South Africa is a critical sector for understanding the enabling and obstructive dynamics of just transitions from carbon in the Global South. Today, both Brazil and South Africa are their respective continental hubs for auto manufacturing, with significant exports. They have achieved this position in global supply chains through manufacturing vehicles with internal combustion engines. Now the rich world is on a decisive path to electric vehicles, including through bans of new combustion engine vehicles across Europe, the United Kingdom, and in large states in the USA. The project will investigate when, where, and why the auto sector enables or mitigates the carbon basis of growth in middle-income countries. It will do so by comparing the interplay of global economic governing arrangements, domestic policy, and local social actors like unions and business groups in Brazil and South Africa. Field-based research across 2023 to 2025 will include interviews with key firm executives, policy-makers, and union leaders in both Brazil and South Africa, selected as cases that share path dependent legacies of manufacturing internal combustion engine vehicles. I will also pilot a potential third comparison case in Indonesia, which is aiming to use its access to critical minerals for electric vehicle battery production to build a supply chain for a new domestic electric vehicle manufacturing industry.

Carbon Post-colonialism: How Atlas Manufactured the Narrative of Carbon-based Development in Africa

Isaac Kamola, Trinity College

The Atlas Network is a non-profit think tank headquartered in Washington DC, which receives considerable funding from wealthy right-wing donors and fossil fuel companies. The roughly five hundred Atlas-affiliated libertarian think tanks, located in one hundred countries, are funded for the purpose of spreading a free market and anti-regulatory legislative agendas around the world. Despite the Atlas Networks’ considerable impact on the global policy agenda, very little academic research has been published on Atlas–and almost nothing specific to their work in Africa. This project examines African think tanks affiliated with the Atlas Network, and how they have been deployed to advance a pro-carbon development agenda. While appearing as anti-poverty organizations driven by African leaders, this chapter demonstrates how the messaging developed within these African think tanks has been funded, networked, and deployed as part of a well-funded effort to discredit efforts to develop global regulations on carbon.

The Smartest Elephants in the Room: Consultants in International Climate Politics

Edouard Morena and Svenja Keele, University of London Institute in Paris (ULIP) and Monash University

Consultants have come to occupy a unique and often influential position in the international climate debate and regime, one that grants them political influence and geographical reach into the upper echelons of business, government and international development. Yet their involvement in international climate politics and governance has, to date, largely been overlooked. This project will rectify this oversight by initiating a new program of research looking at how prominent management consulting firm McKinsey & Co. engaged in the international climate debate in the lead up to the Copenhagen climate conference (COP15) in 2009. In building an evidence base of McKinsey’s climate activities, we will:
1) Provide new insights into the methodological challenges associated with the study of management consultancies, and how best to address them; and
2) Contribute to an emerging field of research on consultancies and climate change, and more established fields of research on consultancies and international climate politics.

Hiding in the Crowd: Corporate Climate Lobbying under Investor and Consumer Pressure

Christina L. Toenshoff, Leiden University

With the rise of so-called “Corporate Social Responsibility”, investors and consumers increasingly care about companies’ political conduct. This new pressure is especially pronounced in climate politics, where obstructive lobbying has attracted consumer boycotts, hostile shareholder motions, divestment campaigns, and investor lawsuits. This project examines how large companies adjust their lobbying to these pressures. The project highlights the role of trade associations in providing a potential veil of anonymity for companies that do not want to reveal their climate policy positions. In doing so, it tests whether pressure from climate-conscious consumers and investors can have the unintended consequence of changing companies’ lobbying tactics but not their positions. In addition, the book analyzes the influence of different lobbying tactics on ultimate policy outcomes and makes strategic recommendations to activist investors and consumer groups. The empirical work in this project focuses on the European Union, which is home to many climate-conscious consumers and investors.

Climate Obstruction in Brazil: agriculture, forestry and foreign policy

Carlos R. S. Milani, Universidade do Estado do Rio de Janeiro

The project aims to map Brazilian climate obstruction actors from both public and private spheres in three policy sectors: agriculture, forestry, and foreign policy. In recent years, the increasing power of Brazil’s private agribusiness and its advance towards Amazonian territory coincided with foreign policy positionings that disregarded global climate stakes, negotiations and commitments. Using mixed methods, the project will benefit from a previous general mapping of climate denial actors in Brazil and will advance towards more detailed profiles about climate obstruction actors’ narratives, strategies, and transnational connections. It will also analyze how domestic policies (agriculture – particularly agribusiness – and forestry) interact with foreign policy agendas, both in recent governmental history (Temer and Bolsonaro administrations) and under the new Lula administration (years 2023 and 2024).

Identifying the obstructions to Climate action and the relationships between the key organizational actors in the Plurinational State of Bolivia

Moory Romero, Universidad Tecnológica Boliviana; Fany Ramos Quispe, Centro de Acciones por el Desarrollo, Educación y Cultura; Mercedes Saygua, Universidad Indígena Quechua; Tania Mamani, Nación Qhara Qhara; Eleodoro Baldiviezo, Prosuco

This research proposal seeks to collect and analyze information that will help to identify the main obstructions to climate action, as well as the roles and relationships among organizational actors in climate change politics in Bolivia. The encounter of the international climate policies and the national legal frameworks might be rooted on the different epistemologies behind such instruments, and due to links between the actors with colonial and fascist heritage inside and outside the country. The study aims to address the problem from a transdiciplinary approach.

Climate, Technology & Society: Interrogating Carbon Governance Amid a Net-Zero Future

Lauren Gifford, University of Arizona

Climate tech companies are quickly gaining power, challenging long-standing knowledge of climate change and how to address it. Backed by venture capital, corporate investment, start-up incubators, and major environmental NGOs, tech CEOs are staking dominant knowledge claims to climate and adaptation science, and altering discourses on conservation, development, and climate mitigation– on a mission to “sell nature to save it1.” These start-ups are receiving millions of dollars of investment from major corporations who hope these businesses can help them meet their climate commitments and net zero goals23. This emerging market space is driving monumental shifts to the political, economic, and social structures that constitute environmental governance, and creating new, little understood impacts on human-environment relationships. Poor climate governance can lead to maladaption, social and physical tipping points4, and greater climate injustice5. It is imperative we understand the implications of large-scale tech and capital-driven climate action so we can envision and shape more just and resilient futures.

Investigating Regulatory Capture within the Department of Interior, the US Army Corps of Engineers, and FERC

Noel Healy and Geoffrey Supran, Salem State University and University of Miami

The US Department of Interior (DOI), the US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) make some of the most consequential decisions about how the US government tackles climate change. Federal lands make up one quarter of all US CO2 emissions, while FERC is the primary government authority in charge of granting permits for interstate transmission of natural gas, oil, and electricity, and the siting and building of all new pipelines. Yet, this is not matched by proportionate research into the structural, institutional, and political dynamics that affect their respective fossil fuel permitting decision-making. This seed grant will help (a) kickstart a study of regulatory capture within the DOI and USACE and (b) fund the expansion of an existing study of regulatory capture within FERC. Both projects will yield new insights into the politics of US government decision-making about energy infrastructure.

Privileged Access, Privileged Accounts: Industry and Media Influences on Climate Politics and Policy in Brazil

Myanna Lahsen, Linkoping University, Sweden; Alexandre Marques, The National Institute for Space Research (INPE), Brazil

Source of an historical average of 65% of Brazil’s greenhouse gas emissions, land use changes and agricultural production are destroying Brazil’s biodiverse, climate-regulating biomes. This project maps the major Brazilian networks of organizations and discourses vying to shape climate policy, including their changed composition and foci since 2015. It attends especially to the networks, policies, and media structures that empower obstructing discourses and activities by Brazil’s agribusiness, including two national trade associations representing the sector, but also to networked actors contesting and seeking to contain its power. Comparing representation of meat as a problem in major daily newspapers against the broader spectrum of national climate-relevant discourses and actors found on Twitter, we will also explore whether agribusiness interests are served by the filtering of views and issues performed by Brazil’s powerful media empires. The research will provide transparency and understanding vital to mobilization of publics and policy reforms.

Publications from research:

Understanding Global Patterns of Land-Use and Deforestation Policy: Original Data Collection and a Research Agenda

Kathryn Baragwanath, Australian Catholic University; Cesar Martinez-Alvarez, Luke Sanford, Yale University; Alice Xu, Harvard University

Agriculture, land use, and deforestation are key drivers of climate change, biodiversity loss, and other environmental issues. In countries around the world, the agricultural business yields significant political power, which has translated into less effective policies and regulations to protect ecosystems. This project focuses on Latin America, a region where industrial agriculture threatens the sustainability of some of the world’s key forests. We do so in two ways. First, we aim to understand the patterns of land use governance (particularly forests) from a historical perspective—what institutions and policies have governments created to preserve relevant ecosystems? Second, we theorize and measure the influence of local interest groups in the adoption and implementation of this governance framework; we are particularly interested in analyzing the role of agricultural lobbies and industries in environmental policy-making.

From Obstruction to Opportunity: Renewable Energy Transitions and the US Agricultural Sector

Holly Caggiano, Princeton University; Sara M. Constantino, Northeastern University; Mark Paul, Rutgers University

While previous research explores how agricultural organizations have lobbied to obstruct action on climate change, limited research examines the role of the agricultural sector and land ownership in national and local transitions to renewable energy. The widespread practice of siting utility-scale wind and solar projects on farmland creates opportunity for new sources of revenue. However, the expansion of wind and solar is hampered by substantial obstacles around siting, including local opposition near planned sites, idiosyncrasies in local government decision-making, and dynamics of land ownership. Increasing consolidation within the agricultural sector further complicates equitable distributions of power and decision-making. This project investigates the role of the agricultural sector in obstructing or supporting RE developments through siting needs, land use decisions, and its role in shoring up public support or opposition for such projects. Through this work, we identify the distributional and equity implications of RE siting on agricultural land in the path to decarbonization.

Reinventing fossil fuels and the future in Australia

Vanessa Bowden, Daniel Nyberg, University of Newcastle

Historically in Australia, the fossil fuel sector has been embedded in notions of national identity and prosperity, with climate change policy fiercely contested. In the context of growing commitments to emissions reductions and increased use of renewable energy, however, there are strong projections of falling demands for coal. This trajectory has prompted governments and industry to seek out new sources of energy and exports, specifically in the form of gas. This project will investigate industry and government discourses around gas in the context of the structural decline of coal. Making use of media, public reports and documentation, and interviews with key representatives working in the energy sector, fossil fuel industries and government, the project will contribute to recent discussions in social sciences on fossil fuel hegemony by showing how ‘future making’ is employed to shape climate and energy politics.

Just Industrial Transitions in the Global South: The Case of Auto Manufacturing

Benjamin Bradlow, Princeton University

The prospects for reducing inequality in middle-income countries amid a global energy transition will depend on labor-absorbing manufacturing sectors like autos. Auto manufacturing in Brazil and South Africa is therefore a critical sector for understanding the enabling and obstructive dynamics of just transitions from carbon. Today, both Brazil and South Africa are their respective continental hubs for auto manufacturing, with significant exports. The rich world is on a decisive path to electric vehicles, including through bans of new combustion engine vehicles across Europe, the United Kingdom, and in large states in the USA. This project will investigate when, where, and why the auto sector enables or mitigates the carbon basis of growth in middle-income countries. It will do so by comparing the interplay of global economic governing arrangements, domestic policy, and local social actors like unions and business groups in Brazil and South Africa. Field-based research will include interviews with key firm executives, policy-makers, and union leaders in both Brazil and South Africa, selected as cases that share path-dependent legacies of manufacturing internal combustion engine vehicles.

The Politics of Climate Change in the Philippines: An Evaluation of Institutions and Organizations in Relation to Climate Change Policy and Action

Eduardo Calzeta, Evaristo Niño Cando III, Antonio P. Contreras, Decibel Eslava, Maria Victoria Espaldon, Juan Miguel Guotana, Eduardo Roquino, Jessica Villanueva-Peyraube, University of the Philippines Los Banos

The project is a national study that would examine the institutional ecology involved in the formulation of climate change policy and action in the Philippines, either as enablers or as sources of resistance. These would include organizations involved in primary production and services on one hand and law firms; civil society actors, advocates, consultancy firms, and think-tanks; banks and financial institutions; and media and PR companies on the other. Qualitative research methods in data gathering and analysis will be employed. Analysis will be contextualized using the three dimensions as follows: input-output-feedback mechanism, the flow of knowledge and information, and the organizational evolution and their activities in relation to the promotion of (or resistance to) climate change policies and actions. The project outputs are a book of cases, a journal article, and a policy paper.

How do organizational behavior and reactionary discourse contribute to climate obstructionism? Examining the case of Brazil’s Agribusiness Bench

Ian Carrillo, Mathaus Viana Campos, University of Oklahoma

This project studies the organizational strategies and reactionary discourses that polluting industries use to obstruct climate policy. The project focuses on Brazil’s Agribusiness Bench, a group of congress people who are often agribusiness men, promote anti-climate policies, and propagate far-right politics. This project asks: What policies have the Agribusiness Bench enacted to obstruct climate change mitigation? What is the relationship between an agribusiness firm’s organizational behavior and anti-climate policy? How do Agribusiness Bench members use reactionary discourse to achieve climate obstructionism? To answer these questions, this study uses methods involving qualitative content analysis and discourse analysis. Focusing on the period 2014-2020, we analyze climate-related laws linked to agribusiness activities and the reactionary messaging Agribusiness Bench members use in public statements. Overall, this project advances our understanding of how the agribusiness sector and far-right extremism contribute to climate obstructionism in Brazil, a country whose carbon sequestration resources are key to planetary stability.

Assessing the Climate Advocacy Population in Australia

Christian Downie, Darren Halpin, Australian National University

If the newly elected Australian Government is to implement ambitious climate policies, it will have to overcome the opposition from incumbent fossil fuels industries. Its capacity to do so will be directly related to the balance of forces between actors in support or opposition to climate policy and their relative lobbying capabilities. However, to date scholars have yet to systematically map the actors that comprise the movement in support of action on climate change, or the actors that comprise the climate change countermovement and assess their capabilities. Accordingly, this project aims to assess the climate advocacy population in Australia. Over the course of the 12 months to December 2023, it will employ a range of methods to do this with the aim of drawing lessons for policymakers seeking to manage stakeholder interests and advance climate action.

Communicating climate change in a resource poor country: the case study of Jordan

Imad El-Anis, Marianna Poberezhskaya, Nottingham Trent University

The project aims to critically examine media coverage of climate change in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. Jordan is the world’s fourth most freshwater scarce country and hosts the second highest number of refugees relative to overall population, resulting in exceptional vulnerability to climate change and limited adaptive capacity. However, until recently climate change has been ignored at the national level, resulting in a very limited public understanding of climate change. This project will analyze: 1) how climate change is covered by Jordanian national media outlets to identify what narratives are being circulated within public climate change discourse; and 2) who the main sources of information on climate change are, to understand how climate change narratives are created and influenced in Jordan. As a result, we will develop recommendations on how to effectively communicate the global consensus on climate change science and expand discussions on Jordan’s extreme climate change vulnerability.

Climate Change Policy Networks in Southeast Asia

Paul Gellert, University of Tennessee

Insular Southeast Asia faces a high level of vulnerability to climate change, including risks of permanent inundation of islands and coastal areas, displacement of millions of people, and devastating impacts on property and infrastructure. Building on research in the global North on climate change policy networks, countermovements, and more moderate “climate capitalism,” this research focuses on the global South. This project seeks to understand the climate policy planning network in Southeast Asia by examining the population of relevant transnational organizations with connections to the region in combination with a judgment sample of important civil society organizations in Indonesia. Social network analysis will be used to examine the structure of the network and be enriched by qualitative interviews across different types of civil society organizations, business, and government actors to shed light on the climate policy planning network and the contours of climate capitalism.

Fossil-fuel infrastructure and climate obstruction: Strategic action analysis of conflicts in Latin America and Africa

David Hess, Vanderbilt University

The research project will make two contributions to social science research on climate obstruction: 1) contribute to awareness of the material dimensions of climate obstruction by developing a comparative analysis of the conditions under which new fossil-fuel infrastructure is approved in cases where there is public opposition; and 2) develop a framework for strategic action analysis of both opposition and incumbent coalitions, an approach that has relevance for a wide range of projects in the CSSN. It will build on my existing research projects on energy infrastructure politics and the strategic action of both opponent and developer coalitions by extending current work on the U.S. to Latin American and Africa. The project will involve a team of student researchers that will be supported with my own research funds. Research and two articles will be completed by early 2024 for submission to journals.

Publications from research:

Russia and the Politics of Climate Change: regime resistance in a time of crisis

Ellie Martus, Griffith University

This project examines the domestic politics of climate change in Russia, addressing an urgent need to understand how policy decisions are made within Russia. It focuses on the intra-organizational struggle over climate policy within the government, and aims to understand the power of networks of business and government actors to influence the policy process and resist policy change. To do this, the project draws on documentary sources and interviews to examine a series of key policy contests which have shaped the direction of Russia’s climate politics since the mid-1990s. The project will help us understand the political and institutional dynamics of climate politics in one of the world’s largest fossil fuel exporters and producers, at a time when Russia is using revenues derived from fossil fuels to fund its invasion of Ukraine.

Land in Australian and New Zealand climate policy, 1990 – 2007

Rebecca Pearse, Australian National University

Since the 1990s, considerable institutional effort has been put into codifying climate policy for land carbon sinks in the face of enormous technical and political difficulties. While much social scientific research has detailed how land carbon rose to prominence in the UNFCCC and other international fora, little empirical work has been done to tell the regional policy histories of land carbon in order to explain why sinks have become so central within the domestic and regional climate institutions. Taking an historical institutional approach, this project asks why and how did land carbon sinks become institutionalized in Australian and New Zealand climate policy regimes? Using historical archival research, media and practitioner interviews, this project aims to develop a political economic history of land carbon policy from 1990-2007. Land carbon sinks carve out new territories in the ‘net zero’ political economy. Australia and New Zealand expert networks and institutions will be analyzed as nodes of policy influence within the Asia-Pacific region. The relationships between domestic, regional, and international political economic agendas and ideas informing land carbon policy development will be mapped and theorized.


Corporate Elites and Climate Change Delayism in Africa

Oluwaseun James Oguntuase, Lagos State University, Nigeria

Corporate elites and their business organizations wield enormous influence on public policies in Africa but empirical examinations analyzing corporate elites’ climate change engagement discourses are scarce if not non-existent on the continent. This exploratory study seeks to understand how corporate elites in West Africa utilize discursive constructions of climate change engagement across three frames – the rational, moral and delayism discourses, and the social realities of climate delayism frame in public policy formulation in African society. It is the hope of the researcher that discourse analysis of corporate elites’ engagement around climate change will produce a simplified view of climate change engagement in business organizations and help to understand the narratives feeding climate delayism towards developing effective counter-strategies.


2022 Funded Projects

Agricultural Organizations and Their Messaging About Climate Change and Recommended Responses

Thomas Daniels, University of Pennsylvania

US agriculture contributes an estimated 10 percent of the nation’s annual greenhouse gas emissions. Reducing greenhouse gas emissions through changing the types of livestock or crops raised and the adoption of practices that reduce manure and fertilizers and enhance soil carbon is highly desirable. Nine US agricultural organizations represent meat producers and growers of corn, soybeans, and wheat. Historically, these organizations have expressed skepticism about climate change and whether growers should alter what they produce and how. This study analyzes the communications and publications of these nine organizations from 1990 to 2022 to identify changes toward accepting climate change and advocating for climate-friendly crops and livestock and production practices. The study will also identify the actions each organization is recommending to re-orient federal policies, USDA programs, and producer practices to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Publications from research:

Climate Vulnerability and the Paradoxes of Energy Policies: Understanding the Barriers to a Low Carbon Sustainable Energy Future in Bangladesh

Omar Faruque, Queen’s University, Canada

Although the Paris Agreement and the UN SDGs have institutionalized a new global policy framework for low carbon development, many countries like Bangladesh face substantive barriers to sustainable energy transition. Several studies suggest a huge potential for renewable energy to meet Bangladesh’s growing demand. Moreover, the falling costs of renewable energy technologies are making it cost-effective and affordable. Despite this promising reality and its international commitments, the Bangladeshi government remains committed to fossil fuels. Scholars argue that various actors with uneven power and divergent interests are engaged in a battle to shape the overall policy agenda. Building on this insight, this study examines the influence of both exogenous and endogenous actors on formulating public policies in the power and energy sector in Bangladesh. In so doing, it aims to contribute to the emerging scholarship on energy transition and climate obstruction in the Global South.

Exploring Regulatory Capture at the Federal Energy Regulatory Authority (FERC)

Noel Healy, Salem State University

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) wields enormous but overlooked power over our energy future, making some of the most consequential decisions about how the US government tackles climate change. Yet this is not matched by proportionate research into the structural, institutional and political dynamics that affect FERC’s permit decision-making. This research will provide one of the first systematic, peer-reviewed studies of regulatory “capture” at FERC. It will fill a critical gap in knowledge on the structure of power in US government decision-making on energy by investigating the links between fossil-fuel interests and federal energy regulators.

The role of U.S. industrial meat and dairy producers in the climate change countermovement

Jennifer Jacquet, New York University and Viveca Morris, Yale University

The fossil fuel industry’s role in the extensive “climate change countermovement” has been studied for decades, but relatively little is understood about the ways in which the animal agriculture industry has influenced public understanding of the sector’s contributions to climate change. This research examines the relationship between the meat and dairy industries and prominent researchers and university programs. We ask 1) whether and how these relationships have challenged the linkage between the meat and dairy industry and climate change; 2) how they have approached disclosure of financial ties to the meat and dairy industry; and 3) how the media has reported on industry-funded research.

Politics of Climate Change in Zimbabwe: Integrating Energy Transition and Ecosystem Restoration

Tariro Kamuti, University of Cape Town

Zimbabwe has a climate change dilemma that is centered around energy production and biodiversity loss. The country’s majority population who are subsistence farmers do not have access to electricity so, they rely on firewood for their energy needs. On the other hand, a greater proportion of the country’s electricity is produced through coal-powered stations and the country is investing more in that sector to meet outstanding demand. The country needs to take an alternative course of action anchored on a just energy transition in tandem with the restoration of ecosystems. Using an institutional approach, the study aims to understand the workings of the policy processes and governance contexts in the integration of various strategies to tackle climate change in Zimbabwe. These contexts will give the state of politics of climate change in Zimbabwe with a special focus on the need for integration of a just energy transition and ecosystem restoration.

International climate finance: obstructing transformational change on-the-ground?

Laura Kuhl, Northeastern University; Jamie Shinn, West Virginia University; Saleemul Huq, Independent University, Bangladesh and M. Feisal Rahman, Durham University

International climate finance is an integral part of the global climate policy regime, with its goal increasingly articulated as catalyzing transformational change. Significant barriers related to the amount and quality of finance have been identified, but less attention has been paid to how competition for scarce resources incentivizes countries to design projects that are driven by the priorities of the funds. The objectives of the project are to 1) analyze the deliberative process within the Green Climate Fund (GCF), as a key case study, to articulate the ways in which investment criteria and their interpretation by key decision-makers shape on-the-ground transformation, 2) to understand perceptions of what is an acceptable or unacceptable transformational change from the perspective of both applicants and funders, and 3) compare the conceptualization of transformation in the GCF and other sources of climate finance, including multilateral development banks (MDBs) and bilateral donors.

Publications from research:

Primary evidence for the origins and evolution of the Atlas Network’s global climate policy obstruction, 1981-2013.

Jeremy Walker, University of Technology Sydney

The project aims to present an account of the origins,  aims and evolving strategies of the Atlas Network, and its role in advancing fossil fuel industry objectives from its 1981 founding (as the Atlas Economic Research Foundation) –  notably at a time when major corporate donors such as ExxonMobil and Shell possessed detailed scientific projections of catastrophic global impacts by the early 21st century- into the present.

Contesting the Coast: Real Estate Interests and the Obstruction of Climate Adaptation in California

Edward Walker, Andrew Malmuth, University of California, Los Angeles

As sea level rise threats continue to grow along the California coast, this project will analyze the politics of California’s coastal adaptation, including, most notably, the powerful real estate interests that are shaping possibilities for future action. The project will use data from historical records, interviews, and participant observation to identify the effects of real estate interests (developer firms, industry groups, and wealthy owners, as well as their allies) as they slow efforts at adaptation through their engagement with the state. In so doing, we will trace the strategies used by real estate coalitions to curb (or redirect) state power and analyze the circumstances under which real estate interests are able to preserve the coastline as a space for private value extraction. These findings will not only advance sociological theorizing on the politics of climate adaptation but also provide a theoretically-informed basis for considering on-the-ground solutions—and proposing a more just politics of SLR adaptation.

2021 Funded Projects

Clashes in Paradise: Development Models and Climate Obstruction in Argentina and Brazil

Carlos Milani, Universidad do Rio de Janeiro; Ruth Mckie, De Montfort University; Guy Edwards, Brown University and Ricardo Gutiérrez, Universidad Nacional San Martin

This is a 24-month comparative case study project which maps climate obstruction actors, their narratives and strategies in Argentina and Brazil. Both are important actors in global climate governance with vast agribusiness, mineral extraction complexes and booming fossil fuel production. Brazil and Argentina present different contexts (approaches to development, political traditions, and economic trajectories), offering fertile ground to examine what form climate obstruction takes and the extent to which it has stalled climate-related policies. The main research questions are: Who are the key actors in Brazil and Argentina working to delay or obstruct climate action such as delaying the energy transition and reducing deforestation? How are they organized at the local and national level, and how do they compare? What explains the rationales, strategies, and discourses of climate obstruction? What are the transnational connections between actors in Argentina and Brazil and their global partners in the US, Europe and Asia?

The Business of Influence: Networks, Narratives and Strategies of Action and Non-action Around Climate Change, 1973 – 2021

Melissa Aronczyk, Rutgers University

This project examines the extensive role played by public relations and promotional (advocacy, branding and advertising) campaigns in developing the rule book by which corporate and political actors coordinate and pursue their objectives. It will  trace the trajectories of key actors and organizations over time in their elaboration of strategies to reshape environmental problems in significant ways, with lasting effects on the ability to develop standards and regulations to address global warming in political and public spheres. This two-year project will combine theoretical perspectives on elite political and communication networks and the nature of influence with empirical research on interorganizational dynamics and public promotional/advocacy activities among corporate, government and non-governmental actors. It will use extensive analysis of media and publicity as well as historical and archival research to develop a set of substantive responses to existing barriers to climate change action.

Intersections and Impacts of the Fossil Fuel-Plastic-Agriculture Complex: Mutual Reinforcement and Embodied Injustice

Alaina D. Boyle and Jennie C. Stephens, Northeastern University

There has been extensive research on bilateral connections between fossil fuels and plastics and fossil fuels and agriculture but research on the extent to which these three industries are interconnected has been limited. The cumulative societal impact of the legacy of strategic activities in these industries resisting climate policy and climate justice remains under-analyzed. What is clear is that both plastics and agricultural inputs derived from highly carbon-intensive petrochemicals directly and inequitably damage human health. This research dissects mutually reinforcing production inputs, processes, and products in the fossil fuel – plastic – agricultural complex (the ‘carbon complex’) to: 1) clearly delineate the roles and relationships within and between actors in these industries as they have together contributed to climate change and 2) examine their cumulative effect on US federal and state climate policy, including through strategic investments in lobbying and other obstructions.

The Rise of Financialized Climate Governance: Examining the Phenomenon and Evaluating its Potential

Rami Kaplan, Tel Aviv University and David L. Levy, University of Massachusetts Boston

Recent years have seen the mobilization of investors to integrate climate metrics into financial decisions and to pressure firms to address climate risks. This proposed study examines financialized climate governance (FCG), potentially a powerful lever for change given the primary role of capital markets in corporate governance and the concentration of corporate GHG emissions and global investment management. We propose the first sociological inquiry into the significance, trajectory, and impact of this new phenomenon on societal relations, inter-organizational dynamics, and GHG emissions. Our research questions address: FCG as a social movement, including the reframing of risks, actor mobilization, and opportunity structures; the calculative mechanisms that intermediate between climate metrics and financial measures of value and risk; shifting alignments and power relations among diverse actors; and FCG’s effectiveness in driving change despite its capitalist self-regulatory nature and greenwashing risks. Research methods include interviews, participant observations, and collection of documentary and database materials.

Blocking Sunlight, Delaying Climate Action: Financial Capital, Solar Geoengineering, and U.S. Climate Policy

Kevin Surprise, Mount Holyoke College

Solar geoengineering (SG) technologies – proposed methods for slowing climate change by reflecting sunlight back to space – have long faced criticism for potentially enabling fossil fueled business-as-usual and allowing industrialized countries to avoid necessary emissions cuts. This concern is not unfounded, yet the fossil fuel industry is not currently funding any major SG research initiatives. Rather, the economic sector most directly involved with SG research in the U.S. is financial capital: firms, individuals, and philanthropies connected to hedge funds, venture capital, and private equity. Given that SG has the capacity to slow warming independent of emissions reductions, and finance remains heavily invested in fossil fuels, this project explores three central questions: Why are financial actors funding SG research? How does this emergent funding-research configuration change the way that SG is researched and developed? How does the financialization of SG influence the uptake of these technologies in U.S. and international climate policy?

Fossil Nationalism or Climate Nationalism? Investigating the Politics and Narratives of Climate Action, Delay, and Displacement in the Asia-Pacific

Prakash Kashwan, University of Connecticut; John Chung-En Liu, National Taiwan University and Jahnnabi Das, University of Technology Sydney

In this collaborative research project, we use the twin lenses of ‘fossil nationalism’ and ‘climate nationalism’ to investigate climate politics in three large countries outside of North American and western European contexts – China, India, and Australia. Using a contextualized analysis, we investigate the varied positions of fossil fuel industry groups within the broader domestic political economy and its effects on climate denialism, delay, displacement, and climate action. We collect data from English and Non-English newspapers, trade newsletters, and the press briefings issued by the fossil fuel industry groups and map how fossil fuel industry actors relate to other prominent actors and agencies, including government ministries, trade associations, think tanks, and civil society, to shape climate politics in each of these three countries. Our conceptualization and analysis of climate politics on a continuum between fossil nationalism and climate nationalism offers new comparative insights on pathways for addressing the roadblocks against robust and timely climate action.

Extreme Event Attribution in Media Reporting of Wildfires in the US, Canada, and Australia: Anti-reflexibility and the Climate Countermovement

Josh Holloway and Cassandra Star, Flinders University

Natural disasters command significant public attention. They are focusing events, with the potential to shift debate on climate change action. Yet natural disasters also open a ‘crisis-induced opportunity space’ for competing actors to advance policy aims and effect political change, a contest largely played out in the media. Recently, the United States, Canada, and Australia have suffered significant wildfires, which have prompted intense political contests over cause, blame, and responsibility. This project aims to reveal: the frames and themes in wildfire reporting amid climate change; whether climate change countermovements (CCCMs) exploit wildfire reporting to delay climate action; and the transnational spread of CCCM ideas, strategies and personnel. Thus, we will evaluate and systematically compare the dynamics of media reporting on wildfires and bushfires across the three country cases. The project will combine quantitative content analysis with qualitative thematic analysis, and connect these findings to an evaluation of local, national, and transnational activity by political elites to delay climate action.

Climate Policy Preferences and Political Power: The Case of State-Level RPS Policy Design

Joshua A. Basseches, University of Michigan

This project builds on Basseches’ previous work, which found that variation in climate and renewable energy policy design in California, Massachusetts, and Oregon was explainable by differences in the policy preferences and political power among business actors. Most notable was the role of investor-owned utilities, whose policy preferences most directly shaped outcomes. In the upcoming project, Basseches will test theories developed about the policy preferences and political power of these various business actors using five additional states, which unlike the original three, are characterized by Republican majorities and/or significant fossil fuel production within their borders: Oklahoma, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, and Texas. A paired comparison design will enable Basseches to evaluate how these features of state political economy may interact with other determinants of utilities’ policy preferences to explain divergences in policy design.

Climate Advocacy and Opposition in the U.S. States

Jonas Meckling and Samuel Trachtman, University of California, Berkeley

Existing scholarship has highlighted the fundamental role of organized interests in both driving and blocking climate policies. Yet, we have accumulated little systematic empirical evidence on the landscape of organized interests involved in climate and clean energy politics. This is particularly true for US states, where much policy activity is located in the US federal system. In this project, we will, first, curate new quantitative data on pro-climate groups, mapping the landscape of environmental and clean energy groups active lobbying at the state level across all US states. Second, for three states that offer particularly rich lobbying records, we will study the organized interests that lobby both for and against climate and clean energy bills introduced since 2000—along with the outcome of those legislative processes. Third, we will investigate recent climate and clean energy policymaking processes in six states where the Democratic party won full control of government in 2018, paying particular attention to the role of organized interests. The project will thus allow us to better understand the political geography of climate advocacy across US states, the dynamics of interest group battles, and the relationship between party control and interest group influence.

Publications from research:

Mapping the Landscape of US Climate Policy Obstruction: Interest Group Influence in Statehouses

Joshua Basseches, University of Michigan; Rebecca Bromley-Trujillo, Christopher Newport University and Galen Hall, Brown University:

The climate change countermovement (CCCM), a constellation of nongovernmental organizations and corporations, has polarized American beliefs about climate change and stymied Congressional legislation needed to slow the climate emergency. The CCCM’s obstruction has shifted the burden of climate action onto the states. Scholars have little systematic information about who is obstructing clean energy policies in state legislatures, however, reflecting a broader dearth of information about interest groups’ activities in these crucial political arenas. We will address this gap by compiling a large dataset of interest group positions on bills in state legislatures. Between July 2021 and March 2022, we will scrape, clean, and harmonize interest group lobbying records and public testimony, covering 31 states and over 63% of the US population, resulting in ~6-15 million records of positions on legislation spanning the past decade. From March to July 2022, we will replicate a similar study on Massachusetts — which used interest groups’ bill preferences to map advocates and opponents in different domains of climate policy and measure their success — this time on the scale of some thirty-one states. The results will advance our understanding of climate obstruction at the state level.

Publications from research:

The Climate Establishment: When and Why Do INGOs Cooperate With Polluters?

Jessica Green, University of Toronto:

Although international environmental (INGOs) are often seen as opponents of big polluters, oftentimes, the two groups collaborate.  This project asks why, when and how this collaboration occurs. The general assumption is that “professional environmentalists’ ‘ in INGOs are contributing positively to climate politics, but this assumption merits careful examination.  Many INGOs are now large international bureaucracies, which seek to maintain their authority, access to policymakers and funding streams. Moreover, some cooperate with large emitters—including the fossil fuel industry, electric utilities, and firms in other emissions intensive sectors.  Rather than serving as outside critics, the INGOs that cooperate with large emitters are part of what I call “the climate establishment.” The climate establishment includes INGOs involved in advocacy, rulemaking and implementation of international climate policy: insiders in the climate policy making process.  This project asks: which members of the climate establishment cooperate with large multinationals and large emitters, and through what types of policies and programs?

Co-funded with the European Climate Foundation:

Think Tanks and the politicization and polarization of climate change: The case of the Atlas Economic Research Foundation Network

Dieter Plehwe, Berlin Social Science Center;  Ruth McKie, De Montfort University

This project is historical, comparative, and transnational organizational analysis of the Atlas Economic Research Foundation and related think tanks (Atlas Network). We will collect and examine data on 500 organizations, staff and board members, and authors of climate related output. Network analysis will be conducted to investigate interlocking positions in the network and links between think tanks and important corporate and other constituencies of climate denial and obstruction efforts in the most relevant policy fields (e.g. energy, transport, housing and heating, agriculture). As a ‘political institution’ think tanks have expanded their role in policy-planning since the 1970s. Since many of the think tanks studied in national context are members of transnational networks, they are also key institutions in transnational circuits of ideas and political strategies related to climate change policy making in general, and the opposition to ambitious global warming mitigation strategies in particular.